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Tee-off for golf courses

IN the interests of national security, James VI of Scotland allegedly tried to ban golf in favour of archery, writes Sue Jones.

Young men were spending too much time chasing little white balls instead of sharpening their military skills to defend the country. But if the king could have known it would become a multi-million pound industry, he would have done better to invest in it.

Colleges have been capitalising on its recent popularity among young people by teaching courses in golf studies. This is no longer just a Sunday morning hobby for middle-class, middle-aged white men but a growing industry. As the labour force in agriculture shrinks, colleges have been diversifying, just as many farmers have had to do.

The growth in garden centres and outdoor leisure needs people trained in horticultural rather than agricultural skills, and turf maintenance is big business. New courses are being created which mix aspects of horticulture with commerce and leisure, as Richard Ogden discovered. A keen player who came secondin the junior championship at his club, Richard was looking for training and a career in which he could follow his interests and become a golf pro.

With his three good GCSEs and a successful interview, he took up the two-year, full-time National Diploma in Golf Studies at Hartpury College, including NVQ level 2 in sports maintenance. As well as improving his playing, he had to analyse it, using IT to make a video with a commentary on coaching golf swings.

But golf studies is not just about playing the game. It involves written and practical assignments on golf course construction, management and small business principles, which Richard found could help him set up his own business in the future. He hopes to take a part-time management and business course next year when he has completed his National Diploma.

With his course coming to an end, Richard is applying for jobs, but even if this route doesn't work out, his qualifications could lead to a range of jobs, such as greenkeeper or golf course manager.

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